6. 28 Days Later (2002)
It’s hard to pinpoint just when society became infected with a hunger for all things zombie related, but I hold Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later as the first example of an undead outbreak that still has the world in it’s cold decayed grip.
Before 28 Days Later zombies were laughing stocks. How scary could your dead Aunt Joy be if you could simply outrun her at the pace of a slow jog?
To update zombies for modern audiences, 28 Days took what is still considered by many to be a blasphemous act.
They let the zombies run loose.
Suddenly your dead Aunt Joy isn’t so funny when she’s become a ravenous infectious Olympic sprinter with friends.
Like the title says, the film begins 28 days after an outbreak of a highly infectious virus has laid waste to London. A virus where any transmission of bodily fluid puts the victim into a mindless, zombie-like state within seconds. The few survivors left have barricaded themselves into their flats, helpless to watch civilization devour itself from outside their window. One such survivor, a bicycle courier named Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in this strange new world to band with a group of other survivors to make their way to the country and, hopefully, safety.
I remember watching this movie in theaters and being taken aback early on that this would be a zombie film that pulls no punches. Jim is rescued by two hardened survivors and in a surprise attack the male survivor finds himself scratched by one of the infected. Within seconds his companion proceeds to savagely butcher him before he turns. Daaayumm.
28 Days always keep you on the edge of your seat because it is so good at making you unnerved. The infected are everywhere and can strike at any time. And these zombies are some of the scariest you’ve ever seen with their predatory red eyes and blackened decayed skin. They almost always appear in mass mobs and act more like rabid animals than the dim witted zombies of movies past.
Of course some of the most frightening moments come at the end of the movie when humanity itself steps in to become a threat greater than the infected themselves. Let’s just say it involves rape, an underage girl, and a pet zombie to save the day.
28 Days Later is still one of the best films to come from the recent zombie renaissance and the scariest, for it’s realistic interpretation of what a modern zombie outbreak would look like.
FUN FACT: Athletes were specifically cast as the infected because of how important physicality is to them. Danny Boyle felt that since athletes can do things other people can’t, they would be interesting when translated into the movements of the infected.